To say that Alien is a classic movie feels like a dramatic understatement at this point. The movie isn't only a horror/sci-fi milestone that spawned one of the most iconic franchises in cinema history, but it gave us one of the greatest female action stars ever in the form of Ellen Ripley, who was brought to life brilliantly by Sigourney Weaver. It turns out, if director Ridley Scott had his way, Ripley would have been a one-and-done heroine, because he was going to kill her off. Very violently.
Entertainment Weekly caught up with Ridley Scott recently, who is in the process of promoting his latest contribution to the franchise, Alien: Covenant. Ellen Ripley won't be showing up in this particular installment, since it is a prequel to Alien, but she did show up in three other movies after Alien, so it would have hampered the franchise quite a bit were she to die in that first movie. Here is how Ridley Scott explains his idea for the original ending.
"I thought that the alien should come in, and Ripley harpoons it and it makes no difference, so it slams through her mask and rips her head off. It would mimic Captain Dallas [Skerritt] saying, 'I'm signing off.'"
Anyone who has seen Alien knows that is a starkly different ending than what we ultimately got. In the ending that wound up in the movie, Ripley manages to open the airlock and blast the Xenomorph out into space. She then freezes herself and eventually gets found in space years later, which led to the events of Aliens. Which, even though Ridley Scott didn't direct it, is considered to be one of the greatest sequels ever made, courtesy of James Cameron. So it is a good thing that Ridley Scott's plan to kill Ripley didn't pan out. It turns out that was all thanks to an exec at Fox.
"The first executive from Fox arrived on set within 14 hours, threatening to fire me on the spot. So we didn't do that [ending]."
Bless that Fox executive for putting his foot down. We think of Ridley Scott as this massive power in Hollywood but, in 1979, he wasn't the man we know today. Alien really put him on the map so, he wouldn't have had the power to make an argument to keep his dead Ripley ending. We can assume Sigourney Weaver is very happy things went the way they did, but fans surely are as well. Especially because there has been talk of movies that take place after this prequel trilogy wraps up. Though District 9 director Neill Blomkamp's proposed Alien 5 has been scrapped, Ridley Scott has talked of doing another Alien trilogy beyond this current one, that will ultimately lead up to the events of the original Alien. Depending on when that proposed trilogy takes place, Sigourney Weaver could definitely come back at least once more as Ellen Ripley.
Alien is one of those movies that is more than just a movie and is more than the sum total of its various successes, but it does have some pretty impressive accomplishments worth listing. The movie currently holds a very impressive 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 9 out of 10, which is very rare. The movie also made a very impressive $104 million back in 1979 from just an $11 million budget, which was massive at the time. Who knows if that would have been the same had the ending been so different. It is doubtful any Alien fans would have wanted this different Xenomorph ending, offered the choice, but it is interesting to know that things could have been so radically different.